Mailer Quotations compiled by J. Michael Lennon, April 2010
On Violence: Violence is the last frontier in literature.” Interview with Andrew O’Hagan, Paris Review, No. 181 (summer 2007).
On Life: “…there was that law of life so cruel and yet so just that one must grow or else pay more to remain the same.” The Deer Park
“There’s that popular misconception of man as something between a brute and an angel. Actually, man is in transit between brute and God. The Naked and the Dead
“The natural role of twentieth-century man is anxiety.” The Naked and the Dead
On Provincetown: “Decade after decade, artists came to paint the light of Provincetown, and comparisons were made to the lagoons of Venice and the marshes of Holland, but then the summer ended and most of the painters left, and the long dingy undergarment of the gray New England winter, gray as the spirit of my mood, came down to visit.” Tough Guys Don’t Dance
On Time: “…think of sex as time and time as the connection of new circuits.” The Deer Park
“The essence of spirit, he thought to himself, was to choose the thing which did not better one’s position but made it more perilous. That was why the world he knew was poor, for it insisted morality and caution were identical.” The Deer Park
“He had the kind of merriment a man sometimes knows when events have ended in utter disaster.” The Naked and the Dead
“. . . it’s not the sentiments of men which make history but their actions.” Barbary Shore
“We sail across dominions barely seen, washed by the swells of time. We plow through fields of magnetism. Past and future come together on thunderheads and our dead hearts live with lightning in the wounds of the Gods.” Ancient Evenings
“I’m like an old club fighter; I get mad when you miss.” New York Magazine, March 28, 1983.
“Repetition kills the Soul.” The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing
“Once a philosopher, twice a pervert.” Nerve.com, February 15, 2000.
“Crude thoughts and fierce forces are my state. I do not know who I am. Nor what I was. I cannot hear a sound. Pain is near that will be like no pain felt before.” Ancient Evenings
On Women: “You don’t know anything about a woman until you meet her in court.” Boston magazine, September, 1979.
On Sanity: “. . . I had a quick grasp of the secret to sanity—it had become the ability to hold the maximum of impossible combinations in one’s mind . . .” An American Dream
On Cancer: “Cancer is the growth of madness denied.” An American Dream
On Courage: “Comfortless was my religion, anxiety of anxieties, for I believed God was not love, but courage. Love came only as a reward.” An American Dream
On Murder: “. . . murder offers the promise of vast relief. It is never unisexual.” An American Dream
On Revolution:” . . . revolutions are the periods of history when individuals count most.” Barbary Shore
“So the blind will lead the blind, and the deaf shout warnings to one another until their voices are lost.” Barbary Shore
“What if there are not only two nostrils, two eyes, two lobes and so forth, but two psyches as well and they are separately equipped? They go through life like Siamese twins inside one person . . .” Harlot’s Ghost
“How costly is defeat when it is not soothed by great consciousness and how wasteful is the profit of victory when there is not the courage to employ it.” Advertisements for Myself
“. . . God like Us suffers the ambition to make a destiny more extraordinary than was conceived for Him, yes God is like me, only more so.” Advertisements for Myself
‘I am convinced that the most unfortunate people are those who would make an art of love. It sours other effort. Of all artists, they are certainly the most wretched.” The Man Who Studied Yoga
“Nobody could sleep.” First line of The Naked and the Dead
“I understand one element of celebrity, which is the unreality of it. . . . I used to feel I was secretary to someone named Norman Mailer; to meet him you had to meet me first.” The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing
“The country began to speed up, the sexual revolution began with Jack Kennedy . . . things began to open up.” “Mailer’s America (French documentary)